Wandering skipper's loss is freeway's gain

We can't let pass an opportunity to comment on the Carson wandering skipper, the tiny butterfly about to find its way on an emergency list of threatened and endangered species.

There's a soft spot in our hearts for the little orange creature, which hasn't been seen in Carson City since about 1991. Actually, because it can't be found here - specifically, in the path of the freeway being constructed - that it's easy to take a liking to the wandering skipper.

If the Carson wandering skipper had turned up when biologists with butterfly nets had gone searching, it would have caused one more major delay in the freeway construction project.

But the skipper was nowhere to be found - at least in the wetlands near Lompa Lane where it had once lived.

The Endangered Species Act would have required some "mitigation" to protect it, but fortunately we didn't have to get into that situation.

And who do we have to thank? Why, the federal government, of course.

If you'll recall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped create a wetland known as the Steinheimer Mitigation Site in a 20-acre area west of Lompa Lane in order to protect wildlife. The site has done a wonderful job for many species of birds, small animals and insects.

For the Carson wandering skipper, however, it was a different story. Changes in the water flow forever altered the skippers' favorite saltgrass habitat. So long, skipper.

Now, the butterfly - about the size of a nickel - exists only near California's Honey Lake and Pyramid Lake in Washoe County.

In Carson City, according to the Interior Department's move last week to place it on the emergency list, the butterfly has been "extirpated."

In case your dictionary isn't handy, extirpated means "destroyed totally, exterminated, abolished."

Poor little guy. We miss you. Perhaps the bypass can someday be dedicated as the Carson Wandering Skipper Memorial Freeway.


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